Charter A Week 67: The Tide Turns in Provence

If you cast your mind back several years, you may remember me complaining about the incredibly inconsistent nature of mid-tenth century Provençal dating clauses. I had done some research and worked out that if you correlated the date and the day of the week in a selection of charters from the area, you could get dates for the beginning of Conrad the Pacific’s reign which stretched over a spectrum of about seven years. What I then did not talk about in any detail was how Conrad did, in fact, take over Louis the Blind’s former kingdom. After all, when we were following Louis IV on his whirlwind tourof Aquitaine last we, we noted that his first stop was in Vienne, where he met the local count, Charles Constantine, and received his submission. This makes sense: ever since Ralph of Burgundy had taken over northern Provence, it had stayed under West Frankish rule.

What had changed by the early 940s, however, was the geopolitical situation. After the death of the Transjurane king Rudolf II in 937, Otto the Great was able to swoop in and kidnap Rudolf’s son and heir, the young Conrad the Pacific. (At the ripe old age of 24 in 937, Otto was already an elder statesman of European politics compared to Louis IV (17) and Conrad himself (12, perhaps?).) What this meant was that when Otto and Louis ended up on opposite sides, Otto had a convenient pawn to move into northern Provence to nibble away at Louis’ powerbase there. Thus, in 943, one of the first things Conrad did after being sent back south was to go to the Rhône valley, where the young monarch issued several documents, one of which was this:

D Burg no. 29 (27th June 943)

In the name of God Eternal.

Conrad, by will of God Almighty most serene king.

Let it be known to all of Our followers, that servants of God, monks from the monastery of Cluny, lodged a complaint in Our presence, in the district of Viennois, about Our kinsman Charles [Constantine]; the same Charles unjustly contested their goods, which Ingelbert had given to the same place through a charter of donation. He, though, when he saw and heard that he did not hold this rightly, presently gave up every quarrel and immediately corroborated the charters which Ingelbert had made, and confirmed them again in the king’s hand. And then the lord king commanded this judgement be written, through which let the said charters endure inviolable for all time; and We commanded the names of Our followers be inserted below and it be sealed with Our seal.

Sign of lord Conrad, the most pious king.

Bishop Aimo [of Geneva] was present. Archbishop Guy [of Lyon] was present. Archbishop Sobbo [of Vienne] was present. Bishop Bero [of Lausanne] was present. Bishop Odalbert [of Valence] was present. Hugh [the Black], count and margrave, was present. Odalric, count of the palace, was present. Henry, son of Louis [of Thurgau], was present. Count Anselm was present. Count Odalric, Anselm’s brother, was present. Count Azo was present. Count Leotald [of Mâcon] was present. Humbert [of Salins, Leotald’s brother], was present; and all the dominical vassals, greater and lesser, were present.

I, Henry the notary, wrote this judgement, given on the 5th kalends of July [27th June], in the 6th year of the reign of the most pious king lord Conrad. 

Since the end of 941, Louis’ position had already started to crumble. A bad sign was when Viscount Ratburn of Vienne, perhaps seeing an opportunity to undermine Charles Constantine, issued a charter in November 942 dated by Conrad’s rule. Conrad himself had arrived by Spring 943, issuing a set of diplomas which – notably – prominently feature Hugh the Black. Hugh had of course been cut off from Louis’ courtby Otto the Great, but he also had strong ties to Transjurane Burgundy which allowed him to pursue Königsnahe elsewhere – which is precisely what he seems to be doing in the witness list of this diploma.

In fact, the witnesses to this act are balanced neatly between Transjurane figures like the bishops of Geneva and Lausanne and Conrad’s cousin Henry on one hand; Transjurane allies in the Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone like Hugh the Black and Leotald of Mâcon on another; and on a mutant third hand more strictly Provençal figures like the archbishops of Lyon and Vienne, whose closest ties at this point were probably to Hugh of Arles. What brought these men together was the opportunities provided by the shifting balance of power, expressed in immediately terms by the opportunity (or the requirement) to gang up on Louis IV’s most prominent supporter in the region.

Charles Constantine was of course present at this judgement, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen someone arrive at court to find the deck stacked against them. This diploma can reasonably be seen as an attack on Charles. Note, for instance, that he’s not given any title, even the comital one. With a coalition banded against him, Charles was humiliated and forced to accept Conrad’s authority. The following year, in fact, Charles appears in a charter alongside a similar list of people, with his comital title restored, apparently reconciled, however begrudgingly, with the Transjurane regime. It was a very, very bad sign for Louis IV’s authority in Provence.

Charter A Week 64: Hugh the Black, Briefly

Last week, we took a break from high politics for 939. This was not an unimportant year to pass over. That year, a huge rebellion amongst the magnates of Lotharingia asked Louis IV to become their king. He did – although, sadly, no diplomas survive from his abortive reign there – but not for very long. At the Second Battle of Andernach, the two main East Frankish rebels, Eberhard and Gislebert of Lotharingia, were killed and the whole thing collapsed. Louis was forced back on the man who, after he had torn himself away from Hugh the Great, had become his most important supporter: his predecessor’s brother, Hugh the Black.

D L4, no. 12 (14th February 940, Gurziaicus) = ARTEM no. 799 = D. Kar 8.v

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Louis, by grace of God king.

If We lend Our ears to the fitting petitions of Our followers, We maintain the customs of Our predecessors as king and We render them rather more familiar to Our Highness.

Wherefore let it be known to all Our followers, both present and future, that the famous Count Hugh approached Our presence and beseeched that We might give certain abbeys, sited in the district of Porthois, to one of Our followers, named Adelard, and his wife Adele and their heirs. One of these monasteries is called Faverney, named in honour of St Mary; the other is called Enfonvelle, and it is named in honour of the holy martyr Leodegar.

And thus, most freely favouring the prayers of the aforesaid glorious Count Hugh, We concede to the same Adelard and his wife Adele the aforesaid abbeys in their entirety, that is, Faverney in its entirety, with its appendages, that is, with churches, estates, bondsmen of both sexes, fields, meadows, woods, waters and watercourses, mills, incomes and renders, visited and unvisited; and Saint-Léger similarly wholly and entirely with everything pertaining to it; only on the condition that by this precept of Our Highness which We commanded to be made and given to the same couple, as long as Adelard and his said wife and their heirs live, they might hold and possess the abovewritten abbeys, and after their deaths (whenever they are), let the same abbeys revert without diminution or deterioration to that state they are known to have been in until now.

And that this Our statute might endure more firmly, We commanded this precept be made concerning it and be signed with Our signet.

Sign of the lord and most glorious king Louis.

Odilo the notary witnessed on behalf of Heiric [of Langres], bishop and high chancellor.

Given on the 16th kalends of March [14th February], in the 3rd year of the reign of the most glorious King Louis, in the 13th indiction.

Enacted at the estate of Gurziaicus on the river Marne.

The diploma in the original (source above)

If Louis 936 Christmas diploma shows the regime Hugh the Great forced upon him, this act shows him using patronage to develop his support in Burgundy. Hugh the Black is, obviously, the main event; but Hugh’s old rival Bishop Heiric of Langres shows up as archchancellor. Hugh the Black evidently knows how to relate to Louis better than Hugh the Great did: there are no extravagant titles here, but rather a simple ‘famous count’. Nonetheless, Hugh the Black clearly did have demands: Adelard and Adele get two plum monasteries for their own uses.

Notably, this is not the first time we’ve met Notre-Dame de Faverney. Last time, it was the focus of an exchange of property between its holder, Guy of Spoleto, later king of Italy and would-be king of the West Frankish kingdom, and Archdeacon Otbert of Langres. I find it interesting that Louis, in the diploma, is kind of shifty about Faverney’s current state. Given Guy’s withdrawal to Italy after the turn of the tenth century, I see two main possibilities as to what happened to it. First, it’s possible that Hugh the Black took it over as the predominant regional magnates and felt he either needed or wanted Louis’ consent to justify the transfer of monastic property to two laypeople. Second, and I think this is more likely, I suspect Otbert of Langres kept Faverney. In this scenario, Louis’ involvement becomes more crucial, as he is in effect using the legitimacy provided by his royal position and his ties to Bishop Heiric to justify using something which is – sort of – Langres’ property to reward Hugh’s followers.

Whatever the reality, Hugh the Black was not going to hang around in Louis’ following too much longer, although in his defence, that’s not really his fault. Louis’ presence in Burgundy was in part because his support of the Lotharingian rebels had provoked a rebellion of his own in the north, a rebellion which his angry rival, the East Frankish king Otto the Great, was supporting. Shortly after this diploma was issued, Otto headed south and – in essence – absolutely merked Hugh. There was fighting around Troyes, and Otto forced Hugh to give him hostages and an oath not to harm the northern rebels. Hugh’s humiliation was capped when he was made to give Otto his own golden brooch (later donated to the abbey of Corvey). With Hugh’s absence, Louis lost his most powerful support. What would he do next?

Charter A Week 60: Two Responses to the Accession of Louis IV

This is, I promise, the last time I’ll mention the issues of finding charters to translate for the last years of Ralph of Burgundy, but it’s really noticeable how much the accession of Louis IV changes the evidential picture. This is actually the fifth post I’ve written over the years covering the events of 936, and it’s a twofer. That’s right, I couldn’t decide between two charters and so I’ve done both. What links them is that both are responding to Louis’ accession in different ways. The salient point here is that, as we’ve covered before, once Louis was crowned his main backer Hugh the Great took him into Burgundy to try and claim as much of it as possible. You see, Ralph’s brother Hugh the Black, whose powerbase was really more in Transjurane Burgundy, was also trying to do the same thing. We’ve seen before some of the tactics Louis and Hugh the Great tried to use to outbid Hugh the Black for regional support, but we’ve never looked at it from the other side. This brings us to our first charter – one of the most elaborate surviving in Hugh the Black’s name – issued just after the successful conclusion of Louis’ campaign.

ASSA no. 7 (1st September 936, Autun).

In the name of Lord God Eternal and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Hugh, humble count and margrave.

We wish to make it known to the faithful of the holy Church of God, present and future, but chiefly those before whose presence it should happen that this charter of this Our largess should come, that, when We approached the parts of Autunois for a certain necessary reason and entered the hall of the outstanding martyr St Symphorian to pray, and were awaiting the coming of Our followers there for a little while, there came into the presence of Our view Count Gilbert [of Chalon], Count Alberic [of Mâcon] and his son Leotald, and Our follower Adso, intimating to Our Sublimity that the abbot and prior of that place, Teudo, and the whole multitude of canons dwelling under him were suppliantly asking for some gift for Our commemoration in future; and that the place now seemed to be like it was brought to nothing due to the poverty, need, and want of the canons serving there.

We, then, wishing to obey their advice, for love of God and St Symphorian, and in alms for Our father Richard [the Justiciar] and Adelaide, and as well for the remedy of Our soul, restore and give certain manses of land to the stipends of the brothers serving the church of Saint-Symphorien: to wit, in the county of Beaune, twelve manses of land of fruitful vines in the estate which is called Nolay; and in the same district, in another place, eight-and-a-half manses in the estate of Créancey pertaining to the estate of Panthier which a certain matron named Drosia once gave to Saint-Symphorien.

Moreover, Our said followers beseeched that We might concede to them a charter concerning this gift of Our largess to be held in posterity. And thus We commanded a testament of this Our assent to be made, a decree of which We decreed, and in decreeing We urge that the aforesaid manses of land, with everything pertaining to them, visited and unvisited, should endure perpetually assigned and eternally deputed to the uses of the brothers and canons of Saint-Symphorien, and that they should unceasingly exhort the Lord and St Symphorian for Our life and safety; and, when the time comes and the end of Our life, let them, moved by mercy and led by piety, not neglect to commemorate the day of Our death, sustained by the aforesaid goods.

May peace and blessings, long life and joy, honour, praise and glory without any end come to those who conserve this Our decree; but to those who destroy it, may their part be anathema maranatha, be written with Judas, the betrayer of the Lord, and may they be thought of with Dathan and Abiron whom the Earth swallowed alive, subject to an endless curse.

And that this charter of Our largess might in the name of God grasp fuller firmness, We confirmed it with a touch and We asked it be confirmed by Our followers written herein.

Enacted at Autun, happily in the Lord, amen.

Sign of Count Hugh. Sign of Count Gilbert. Sign of Count Alberic. Sign of Adso. Sign of Humfrid. Sign of Viscount Robert [of Dijon]. Sign of Humbert. Sign of Witlenc. Sign of Manfred. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Leotald.

Given on the first day of the month of September, in the …th indiction, in the first year of the reign of King Louis.

I, Boso, chaplain of Saint-Symphorien, wrote and gave this.

As you can see right at the end there, by this point Hugh has recognised Louis as king, so this is probably after the division of Burgundy into spheres of influence. Partly, in fact, the charter seems to be asserting spheres of influence. As we’ve seen before, the big bone of division was over Langres. The end result of the fighting seems to have been to split the diocese of Langres in two, leaving the south under Hugh’s direct influence. The estates he confirms here are significant, therefore: they are in the county of Beaune, but the north of it (specifically, Créancey the northernmost of the two estates, is in Auxois). This is an assertion of power: Louis might have cut him out of Langres, but Hugh can still reach pretty far north.

With that said, it’s unlikely that any division cut Hugh off from his support. What we can see here, I think, is very much his established following and I don’t think that a charter from, say, July 936 would have had a witness list that looks very different. The biggest petitioners are Alberic of Mâcon and Gilbert of Chalon. Alberic is an old hand here: in addition to being count of Mâcon, he’s also count of Besançon, another significant Transjurane player and someone who has been allied to Hugh for a good long while now. The bond between Hugh and Gilbert is a little less obvious, but nonetheless present. Gilbert was a major figure in Ralph’s Burgundy and with a power-base mostly around Chalon, another important southern figure. The final titled person here, Viscount Robert of Dijon, supports the idea that the north/south split was a de facto division as much as anything else. And, of course, on the southern front, this is all taking place in Autun – although, you’ll note, without Bishop Rotmund being present. If he had (as I’ve suggested) had his coat turned by Hugh the Great and Louis, maybe he was persona non grata that winter?

Our second charter takes us to a familiar place and a familiar response. We’ve seen before that Hugh of Arles was a bit worried about all of this. He wasn’t the only one.

Brioude no. 337 (28th August 936, Brioude)

The Commander of everything good and the Lover of human salvation, Who gave himself for our redemption, has deigned to look out for us such that we can buy eternal prizes from the transitory goods which we will leave behind after a short time when death interrupts us. Wherefore it is greatly expedient that we should endeavour to entrust if not all then part of the doomed goods which we secure by His grant to His service, so that (that is) when the others are used up in the usages of this life, we might rejoice that what we gave to Him will remain with us forever.

Therefore, let everyone, both present and future, who will take their place in the congregation of the most blessed martyr Julian at Brioude, that I, Cunebert, levite and prior of the aforesaid congregation, at the exhortation and with the consent, to wit, of lord Hector, our dean, and all the canons of our said congregation of all ages, hand over a certain possession named Chanteuges in honour of our Saviour and the holy martyrs, to wit, in the first place the said lord Julian and another Julian, nicknamed ‘of Antioch’, and Saturninus, churches of the two of whom have been built therein, for this end: that hereafter a monastic way of life might exist therein. My grandfather Claudius, himself a convert, wished to make this possession a canonical congregation, as did his wife; she managed her other part with holy nuns, and because she was overtaken by death she left the aforesaid possession to me by right of a testament, so that after her death it should remain with St Julian at the abbey of Brioude.

However, since I and our abovesaid Dean Hector and all the brothers spoke frequently of the perils of this life and as well the tremendous trail of the Final Judgement, at length we all came to this consensus: that we should hand over the aforesaid place to a stricter way of life, that is, of monks, for our common salvation; and because charity already grows cold, since iniquity overflows all around and the order of things is soon overthrown such that we are unable to change our way of life to the canonical institution, at least it should benefit us before the Lord if we sustain from our rights those who might live according to the Rule, particularly fearing this, that for the honour of our lord Julian much should be given by us in alms lest it should happen that the Judge of All should impute to us that prophecy and hold us to have eaten up the sins of the people.

Both Prince Raymond [Pons] of the Aquitanians, and our abbot and viscount Dalmatius [I of Brioude] and certainly our bishop Arnald [of Clermont] and also the excellent men of this region, to wit, Bertrand and Viscount Robert [of Clermont] and the younger Robert and Eustorgius, and certain other provincials, consented to this decree in order that they would not be seen to rejoice half-heartedly, abjuring, indeed, their successors, in the name of God and the aforesaid holy martyrs, and chiefly indeed the most holy lord Marcellinus, bishop of Embrun, whose most holy body (with many other relics of the saints) were at the present time, by God’s gift, received in that place, that each of them in his time should defend this our constitution as much as possible, and that they should never endure that it be infringed.

Let this offering be first for our congregation, both living and dead; and then for our king and lords and our abovesaid princes, as well as for our kinsmen and intimates. After that – just all of us members of the church are held in one binding of charity, thus let it profit all of the faithful, so that we might be able to share in the good of each; then let this offering be, truly, for the soul of Duke William [the Pious] and his nephews William [the Younger] and Acfred, and for the soul of Claudius – to wit, my grandfather – and the other deceased; otherwise, let it be specially for all of those who offered defence or solace to this place and its inhabitants.

If anyone, God forbid, should contradict this Our ordination, or try to change this we have decreed to injure us and St Marcellinus and the aforesaid holy martyrs, not only let them be deprived of this reward, but also, unless they correct themselves, let them incur the crime of a reckless person and persecutor before Christ’s tribunal; and beholding their own damnation, let them be immersed in the inferno by the Devil with Judas, betrayer of the Lord.

We also communally decree that we should commit the case and execution of this matter to the venerable lord abbot Odo [of Cluny]; and because he is occupied with many other things, therefore we delegate the business of the aforesaid matter to the most reverend man lord abbot Arnulf to be carried out. Let the monks, with their abbot, lead a life entirely according to the Rule as it was handed down by the blessed Benedict. After the death of the present abbot, moreover, let them make another for themselves not in accordance with the ordination of anyone else, but in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict; and let them and all their goods be free and absolved from all dominion of any person.

Therefore we entrust to the service of God and the holy Rule, absolved in every way, the aforesaid place of Chanteuges, sited on one side on the river Allier and on the other on the river Desges, with two churches, as we said, with other woods, meadows, waters, mills, all their adjacencies, cultivated and uncultivated, currently known and to be discovered; with another wood, that is, named Bourleyre. This place is in the district of Auvergne, in the county of Brioude, in the vicariate of the same estate. We also give to that place, in another place, the estate which is called Vaunat with all its adjacencies; and in another place, one double manse, called Benac, in its entirety; in that aich, two manses, of which one is called Bonnavat, in its entirety; and in the vicariate of Nonette, in the estate which is called Collanges, and in that aich, two manses called Combrunas, and in that vicariate, in the estate which is named Sauciat, as much in these estates as we are seen to have and possess, we cede wholly there with all its adjacencies. And I, Cunebert, for the honour of God our Saviour and the most holy Marcellinus and other saints whose merits are venerated there by all, cede to that place something from the goods of my property which fell to me through acquisition and inheritance legitimately; that is, in the estate called Paredon, three manses, with all their adjacencies, and in that aich, in the estate called Rivacus, two manses with appendages, with a garden and an indominical meadow; and in another place called Vaillac, three manses in their entirety, as much in those said estates as I am seen to have and possess; and in another place which is called Cros, as much there as I acquired from Ainard, and will be able to acquire both in land and in vineyards.

I give, transfer and give over this wholly and entirely to God, as was written above, the Saviour, and Saint Marcellinus; but, because the said place was bestowed from the dominion of Saint-Julien, as the case is being enacted for spiritual reasons, thus we ordered that spiritual rent should be rendered for the sake of recognising possession (nothing to men); to wit, that they should on ordinary days pay two psalms for the living and the office for the dead in each of the Regular hours. Indeed, our congregation holds a privilege, conceded anciently, that is, from the time of King Pippin, that whatever we might communally decree concerning the goods of our church should endure entirely undisturbed and inviolable. Therefore we pray and call to witness through the Lord and in the Lord and through all His saints, that no king at all, nor any bishop, nor any viscount, nor (as was said above) any person at all might presume to disturb this our constitution, fearing the divine warning which says ‘‘Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark’, and he who consents, and let him deserve blessings who consents to good.’

Sign of Cunebert, prior and levite, who asked this constitution to be made and confirmed. Sign of Raymond, duke of the Aquitanians, whose other name, by God’s will, is Pons. Sign of Bishop Godeschalk [of le Puy]. Sign of Viscount Dalmatius. Sign of Ingelberga. Sign of Dalmatius [II of Brioude], his son. Sign of Bertrand. Sign of Stephen. Sign of Viscount Robert. Sign of Bertelaicus. Sign of Eustorgius. Sign of Bernard. Sign of Wirald. Sign of Rodrand.

The authority of this testament given on the fifth kalends of September [28th August], in the first year of the reign of lord king Louis, in the basilica of the nourishing martyr Julian, before the altar of Saint Stephen.

I’ve actually spoken about the politics behind this one before so I can be shorter here than with the above. There are two main arguments here. First, Raymond Pons of Toulouse is never otherwise seen this far north. This is probably a show of force to rally support: with Ralph dead, the settlement of affairs in Auvergne which he oversaw and which we’ve discussed in passing in a couple of previous Charter A Weeks was potentially vulnerable. This meant that Raymond’s loose suzerainty could be challenged – but it could also be reinforced. Hence his presence here alongside the great and the good, reminding them of his claims and his power. Second, the claim to be ‘duke of the Aquitanians’ is new. Such a claim must be a response to Hugh the Great’s claim to be ‘duke of the Franks’, a denial of Hugh’s authority over Raymond and a claim that his status is equal. Even more, it may well be a warning to Hugh not to try anything in Aquitaine.

Hugh didn’t try anything in Aquitaine, but he did in Burgundy. Details are scanty, but it seems he cut a separate deal with Hugh the Black, leaving Louis IV out of the loop. Why he did this is unknown, and it appears to involve a change in his intentions since summer 936 (so much for Good Guy Hugh, past me…) but it’s the first sign of some really serious tensions between Hugh the Great and Louis. Next time on Charter A Week, we’ll look for a sign of some more…

Charter A Week 46: Mothers and Sons

For several weeks now, we’ve been focussing on Charles the Simple and royal politics, but plenty of things were happening elsewhere in the realm, not least in Burgundy. In 921, Richard the Justiciar died, probably after ailing for at least half a decade (a 916 charter has his eldest son Ralph of Burgundy signing on his behalf). There are signs that Richard’s position in the last years of his life was not a secure as once it had been. Steven Robbie, whose thesis I love but who has a bad habit of overstating his case (even by my standards) in this regard, has a really cool picture of badly deteriorating relations between Richard’s family and the so-called Manassids, the family of Richard’s right-hand man Count Manasses the Old of Dijon. There is some evidence for this (such as a 918 charter where Bishop Walo of Autun condemns Manasses for seizing an estate of Autun’s church which Richard restored), but not as much as I would like. Meanwhile, the family was getting involved in conflicts outside its heartland: at some point around 920, Ralph teamed up with Robert of Neustria to snatch the city of Bourges away from William the Younger of Aquitaine.

So when, in 921, Richard died, Burgundy was ripe for a change. We have hints that not all was well amongst Richard’s sons, hints such as:

ARTEM 609 (c. 922)

Since worthy witness ought to be given to all just largesse, if only to protect from the fluctuations of worldly fortune, it is necessary that a largess of full devotion should be confirmed by the witness of writings such that the truth of reason is able to understand when it is brought before the gaze of the inquiring. On which account I, Adelaide, by disposition of heavenly piety formerly a countess and now by the gracious favour of the same mercy a handmaid of the Heavenly Emperor (and by a shining family of most brilliant sons enduring in the dignity of the earlier appellation), thinking of these and many other gifts of God’s benefactions granted to me, and with some of my time well-spent, desiring and believing to gain the prize of eternal repayment, decided at the advice and consent – indeed by the exhortation – of my beloved son the illustrious Count Hugh [the Black] – and moreover thinking the worthy thought that such a thing would most certainly benefit us in the gain of eternal rest – thought of the estate of Boyer, which is sited in the district of Chaunois, on the river Natouze, once legitimately given to the late martyr of Christ Vincent and to the uses of the canons by the largess of their own bishop the blessed Lupus, which was seen to be their patrimony by our forefathers, but which by the cunning of the malignant and blind cupidity is known to have been [taken] by lovers of this fallen world from ancient days, although the investiture of the nones and tithes remained.

Therefore I thought it worthy, at the counsel of my aforesaid son Hugh, that I should return the aforesaid estate of Boyer, which I obtained through a precept of royal majesty, with churches and manses, and bondsmen, and everything pertaining to it within and without, sought and to be sought, all adjacencies everywhere, to the stipends of the servants of God soldiering for God and St Vincent in the aforesaid mother church, for the remedy of the soul of my most beloved lord the duke and margrave Richard [the Justiciar], and also mine, and those of my sons, so that the intercession of the said soldier of Christ Vincent and the frequent prayers of his servants might beat at the ears of the Highest Piety in our aid, for which reason we might deserve to obtain eternal life happily by the grace of the Remunerator of All. Whence We commanded this charter of Our largess to be made. Solemnly we avert any bishop, or any person of whatever order or sex, from presuming to subtract it from the table of the same canons; but let the aforesaid brothers enjoy its stipends inviolably, with no impediment.

I also wish that from this estate, three of the better manses with their appendages and acreage and all the serfs’ renders, should constantly serve in looking after the wretched and the hospital of the same church, with their bondsmen, on the condition that in my lifetime they should hold the estate for my uses. For the moment, in vestiture, let the canons always receive the church of that jurisdiction, which is in honour of St Victor, with everything granted to it, and pay the renders in its alms.

If any prince or bishop, therefore, or any person, might presume to subtract or alienate or diminish this offering of Our devotion from the table or stipends of the aforesaid canons, for their presumption and to vindicate this charter of our restoration on the day of Judgement, we commended them to the terror and anathema of unspeakable revenge. In addition, I command and humbly pray my heirs that they might as far as they can support the aforesaid canons regard this my largess, for true life and the remedy of their souls. If the aforesaid brothers are unable to expel the wrongdoers, let my heirs receive it for their uses until they can restore it to the aforesaid congregation in line with my devotion.

And that this charter of our largess might in God’s name obtain a more secure firmness, I fully confirmed it with my own hand, and We commanded it to be strengthened under the hands of my sons and our followers, such that after my death the aforesaid brothers might and hold have this charter of our largess in its entirety.

Cathédrale de Chalon

Chalon cathedral as it looks today (source).

Hugh the Black was Ralph’s brother, and this isn’t the only charter of Adelaide immediately after Richard’s death feting him – another was issued for the church of Autun in 922, ‘at the exhortation of my beloved son the illustrious Hugh’, where Hugh signs before Ralph (and their other brother Boso) in the witness list. It is possible that what we are seeing here is a struggle for power within the family. Ralph had been pushed forward by Richard during his lifetime; but Hugh was backed by their mother, and Adelaide was making no secret of her favour for Hugh following Richard’s death. I don’t think that this was a violent struggle, but it may explain how the Bosonid family reacted to the ongoing West Frankish civil war.

Ralph of Burgundy – who was, by this point, Robert of Neustria’s son-in-law – went to negotiate with Robert, but nothing seems to have come of it, and Ralph did not lend active support to Robert’s campaign. By contrast, Hugh the Black did lead an army against Charles. He did not achieve very impressive results – he attacked a small raiding party and killed three of them – but he was nonetheless there with armed men at Robert’s side. I wonder if they might have been trying to secure their local position by Robert’s intervention. If so, Hugh gained Robert’s support in the short term, but it left him dangerously exposed if Robert’s position were to crumble. As for how that went – we will see next week…

Politics, Provence, and Proving Nothing

The COVID-19 pandemic has not generally, I get the impression, been good for research. Libraries have been shut, there’s been almost no chance of archive access, and lots of the usual venues for exchanging knowledge have either not happened or gone online which – even as someone who’s run a couple of online conferences myself – just isn’t the same. The pandemic has had the same impact on me – my ongoing research has been heavily disrupted for about a year, so I’ve been working on a couple of pandemic projects I can do with the resources at hand. The biggest, and the one into which I’ve put the most time, is writing an actual narrative history of tenth-century France. It seems to me that there’s a need for such a book. For one thing, if you want detailed narrative for the period then at the moment your normal recourse is to a series of about six studies all of which are over a century old, in which time our fundamental assumptions about tenth-century history have changed notably. What this means is that the current boom in work on the period is in the strange situation where very theoretically and critically advanced material is being put in the context of a narrative all of whose assumptions come from the historiography of belle epoque France. This isn’t to say that these books need replacing, necessarily – the scholars who wrote them were deeply immersed in the sources and the world, and their insights remain valuable – but it would be nice to have something a) more up-to-date and b) in fewer than half-a-dozen volumes. This isn’t just a question of synthesis – in basically every chapter, I have to argue for my story; and this is – as always – ever more the case when it comes to Provence.

Yes! Surprise – it’s another Provence post. This time, we’re going later than we usually do, to the late 940s and the reign of Conrad the Pacific. You may remember from previous posts about Provence that after the death of Louis the Blind there is a period of confusion where it’s not entirely clear who’s in charge. There is a long-standing historiographical tradition that this comes to an end in 933 when Rudolf II of Transjurane Burgundy makes a deal with Hugh of Arles that Rudolf gets to rule Provence in return for not trying to overthrow Hugh in Italy. I have argued before that this is more-or-less nonsense, and there is a solid and separate historiographical tradition which agrees with me. However, that tradition in turn would give a date of 942, when Otto the Great and Louis IV met at a place called Visé and made a pact. The argument is that we know Conrad the Pacific was in Otto the Great’s train in 942; in late 942 and early 943 we see Conrad for the first time in Provence; so it must have been the case that Louis, Otto, and Conrad made some kind of settlement over northern Provence. Given Flodoard says absolutely nothing about any of this, such an argument gets me muttering about correlation and causation (not that Flodoard’s silences are clinching proof, but they do get me suspicious); and there is a further historiographical tradition which is happy for Conrad’s assumption of power in Provence to have been a much more drawn-out affair.

To give you a really quick timeline: Louis IV comes to the throne in 936; Conrad in 937 but he gets quickly kidnapped by Otto the Great. We don’t have any charters from south of the Lyonnais which can be securely dated to this period in the name of either monarch but narrative sources seem to indicate that Louis had more punch in northern Provence than any other ruler. This changes by 943, when Conrad is in Vienne. There, he seems to have most of the region’s elite on side, despite some friction with Vienne’s count, Charles Constantine (son of Louis the Blind). By 946, Conrad looks like he’s firmly in charge of the north. Then, in 947, something important happens: Hugh of Arles, who has been king of Italy all this time, is deposed, and flees north to Arles itself, where he seeks help to regain his throne before quickly dying in April. Hugh’s death changes the picture, and I’m currently trying to work out how Conrad and Louis respond to it.

This is hampered by the fact that there’s already a great story that you can put together from work that’s already out there. Two very serious French scholars, Jean-Pierre Poly and Etienne Fournial, both working on rather different issues, have two arguments which complement one another wonderfully.

To start with, Poly points towards a letter from Rather of Verona, addressed to a series of Provençal bishops including Guy of Lyon and Sobbo of Vienne, refusing to come to a synod, in part at least because he was not properly under their jurisdiction. He infers from this that it was a synod arranged to judge Rather’s claims to the see of Verona against Archbishop Manasses of Arles, who also claimed the see. He then links this to the 947 Council of Tournus, where most of the same bishops were assembled, and argues based on a charter for Cluny that Manasses did show up, and was given the all-clear by them.

Fournial, meanwhile, is also looking at charters, in this case from the abbey of Savigny, and points out an interesting pattern: whilst most charters from the Lyonnais after 942 are dated by the reign of Conrad the Pacific, some are dated by the reign of the West Frankish kings, and nearly all of them come from the region of the western Lyonnais known as Forez. Fournial therefore argued that Forez was reserved to Louis by the Treaty of Visé.

A Late Medieval depiction of Feurs, the town after which Forez is named. (source, originally from Gallica)

Here’s where I come in. The earliest charters Fournial has are actually dated to 949*. Manasses of Arles’ charter is also dated by Louis. Now, Archbishop Odalric of Aix-en-Provence shows up at the Synod of Verdun in winter 947, and in autumn/winter 948 Louis was spending a lot of time making nice with the great magnates of southern Burgundy. Conrad, though, evidently also saw an opportunity because he seems to have been exerting his influence to get his men into important positions in southern Provence, notably in the case of the election of Bishop Honoratus of Marseille in 948. So, this presents us with a picture roughly as follows: after Hugh of Arles’ death, Manasses (the biggest cheese left in the region) comes north and negotiates with the area’s other leading prelates about what to do next. Conrad the Pacific sees opportunity, but so does Louis IV, and Manasses is a swing factor. In the end, Conrad does get southern Provence, Manasses goes back to Italy – but Louis is bought off with Forez. It’s an appropriate closing movement to the long and complicated history of Provence after Louis the Blind.

The problem is that it’s definitely wrong.

Let’s start with Poly’s claims, because they are peculiarly baffling. There’s not much literature about the Council of Tournus, but in what there is it is clear that German and French scholars have not been reading each other’s work. German scholars not being familiar with Poly’s work I can understand – they tend to be Carolingian-focussed Church historians and it’s not immediately obvious that a history of feudalism in the central Middle Ages is relevant to that – but Poly is apparently unaware of basic things, like the ‘modern’ edition of Rather’s letters (‘modern’ in quotation marks because whilst it is a product of modern scholarship in a way which the much older edition Poly cites is not, it’s also from the 1940s), or the extensive German-language historiography on Rather’s career. This is relevant because that scholarship is universally agreed that the letter in question dates from the mid-to-late 930s, and whilst I’m not 100% convinced of the reasoning there, at the very least Rather was back in Verona in mid-late 946 so is unlikely to have had anything to do with the Council of Tournus. Equally, there’s no evidence linking Manasses to that council either – he was certainly in Provence in September 948 but that’s over a year later!

Equally, Fournial’s argument has been respectfully demolished by Pierre Ganivet. The thing with Fournial’s argument is that there are a lot (like, a lot) of charters from Forez dated by Conrad’s reign, and it’s far from clear what factors affected the drafting. Ganivet points out that one of the most likely factors seems to be scribal preference, which if the scribe wasn’t from Forez might not be very helpful. In any case, we definitely don’t have a picture of West Frankish control over Forez, as opposed to a few weird outliers.

(Even the date of 948 for the election of Honoratus of Marseille is probably wrong: it’s dependent on a charter dated by ‘the twelfth year of Conrad’, but we have another charter from the same monastery dated to his thirteenth year, and that also gives an AD date of 955…)

So, is there anything left? …Honestly, not really. I’ve looked at the evidence from every conceivable angle trying to find something, because we definitely have traces of something interesting happening in these years, but there’s no ‘there’ there. Now, on one hand, Conrad’s expansion into the south of Provence is well-documented, and his consolidation of power in the north is also well-known even if not often commented upon. How this interacted with the West Frankish kingdom, though, is unknown, if hinted very obliquely in our sources. For one thing, there are a lot of West Frankish bishops at the Council of Tournus, including the suffragans of the archbishop of Lyon but also Godeschalk of Puy, who wasn’t (but, on the other hand, Godeschalk has lots of ties with Transjurane Burgundy and Provence…). Then, there’s the presence of Bishop Odalric of Aix-en-Provence at the Synod of Verdun in late 947 (but he was running the see of Rheims for years and the evidence he ever went back south after the 920s is very dubious…).

Then, we have Manasses of Arles visiting Cluny in September 948, along with Countess Bertha of Arles and the bishop of Avignon. This is probably the least controvertible piece of evidence we have that something is going on, because that certainly looks like a delegation to me. The charter in Manasses’ name through which we know any of this is dated in the name of Louis IV, which could be significant except that the charter itself deals with lands near Chalon, was issued at Cluny, and was written by a scribe who from what I can tell only worked at Cluny, so it’s – again – probably just scribal preference. The significance of this is that it’s a reasonable leap to say that Manasses is there to talk to Hugh the Black (who in addition to ruling southern Burgundy is also in charge around Lyon and Besançon) and Count Leotald of Mâcon (and Besançon), and probably Bishop Maimbod of Mâcon too – all of them have clout in northern Provence. At precisely the same time, Louis IV is also spending a lot of time talking to precisely these people. But there’s no route through them from Louis to Manasses, and no trace of any kind of deal between Louis and either Manasses or Conrad. Ultimately, this is one of those cases where it’s best not to push the evidence too far…

*OK, not really, but that’s the best interpretation. They’re actually dated to ‘the twentieth year of the reign of Louis, king of the Franks’, who didn’t reign for twenty years. The editor proposed, I think reasonably, that they were dating from the death of Charles the Simple in 929. It must be said, there are also a number of other options, including but not limited to a) they mean ‘Conrad’ not ‘Louis’ and there’s been a scribal error (I’ve seen ‘Charles’ and ‘Lothar’ get mixed up before); or b) ‘twenty years’ is being used as a vague, rounding shorthand by the cartulary compilator.

The Problem of Older Brothers

This blog post may be a bit less convoluted than some, because it’s a rant about one general assumption found in earlier medieval scholarship which is so wide-spread that I’ve never even seen it verbalised, but you can find implicit pretty much everywhere: that when there are brothers the most important brother is the oldest.

The most obvious example of this are the three sons of Richard the Justiciar: Ralph of Burgundy, Hugh the Black and Boso of Vitry. Ralph of Burgundy became king, and if you read around you’ll find most historians making the assumption that he was the oldest brother of the three. Yet he’s only attested in 916, whereas Hugh the Black is attested sixteen years earlier, in a royal diploma of Louis the Blind dating from 900 where he’s already a count and clearly important enough to be sent on expeditions to see the king of Provence. Ralph might be the oldest brother, but it’s not proven!

Even more the case of King Odo. It is generally assumed that Odo is older than his brother Robert of Neustria, and again it might be the case. The two siblings were certainly of a similar age. But again, there is as far as I know no specific reference to Odo being older than Robert. In fact, if it is true that Robert was a count near Liège whilst Odo was still hanging around on the family farm in Worms, that might suggest the opposite.

Sometimes, you can prove traditional ideas of who’s older. Arnulf the Great of Flanders, who used to be one of my big hopes for being demonstrably-if-not-provably a ‘younger but more important brother’, actually turned out to be the opposite: re-reading Folcuin of Saint-Bertin’s history of his abbey, I found a reference to Arnulf being maior natu – older – than his brother Adalolf. It’s a shame not to be able to back up my point here, but it is at least a reminder of how rare statements this explicit are.

witger
Still not important enough to be mentioned explicitly in Witger’s genealogy: Saint-Omer, BM ms 776, fol. 33v (source)

Why might this matter? The answer has to do with how succession worked in the early middle ages. We know, I think – and certainly I’ve argued – that norms of succession are extremely flexible, more so than they’re given credit for, and this is part of that. The assumption that the personal who eventually gets the high office must be the older child seems to me to be unconscious, reflex-level part projection of post-twelfth century(-ish) rules of succession-by-the-eldest-male onto a period where that may not have been the case. Ralph is a good example, actually – he might have been a good candidate for king because of his age, sure; but it’s remarkable that both is brothers appear to have been rather more parti pris in the recent and extremely controversial civil war than he was… Age may have been completely irrelevant here. The point is, that unless we recognise this assumption as an assumption, there’ll always be that barrier to our understanding of succession in the earlier middle ages.

(I am, for the record, an older brother myself, so there’s no personal dog in this fight…)

Good Guy Hugh the Great

Well, I’m in Leeds now. It’s not so much that everything’s sorted – much remains to be done – but I have an office and I’m sitting in it and so blog can be written. Onwards! Last week I put up a charter translation, which pointed towards this blog post. I mentioned when I was leaving Germany that it made sense to put all the arguments I had about the political narrative of tenth-century West Frankish history in separate articles so that, someday, I could write a book for a general audience without getting bogged down. Fairly high up my to-do list, then (largely because big chunks of it were already written and even partly footnoted) is a short piece on our old friend, the succession to Ralph of Burgundy.

The basic point of this, which I will rehearse in brief here, is not to make any big splash with new information, but to reinterpret what we already know. “So, like most of medieval history then?”, I hear you say. Good point well made, reader; but in this case we’ve ‘known’ something for rather longer than usual and it has remained unchallenged – as far as I know, at all. But on really trying to set down the state of affairs, I think that the consensus is all wrong and a bag of chips.

29kvqs

That consensus in a nutshell. I presume if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you already know the events, but if not, briefly: in January 936, King Ralph of the West Frankish kingdom, whose core support base was Burgundy, died. As king, he was succeeded by Louis IV, an exile who had lived his entire life in England; as duke of Burgundy, by his brother Hugh the Black. After Louis was crowned, he and Hugh the Great, the so-called ‘duke of the Franks’ and the magnate who had organised Louis’ crowning, attacked Burgundy, seizing the north of it from Hugh the Black. This was an unscrupulous attack carried out at Hugh the Great’s instigation and for his profit, snatching northern Burgundy from the rightful heir, Hugh the Black; and the only reason it could be done was because Louis was a helpless pawn completely under the power of Hugh the Great, whose only interest lay in exploiting the king’s presence to increase his own power, leaving Louis helpless and dependent.

Now, in recent works this is presented a bit less moralistically than it was in the early twentieth century, but it’s still more-or-less the same argument. However, it hinges on the idea that a) Hugh the Black was the ‘rightful heir’ to a ‘duchy of Burgundy’ and b) Hugh the Great was shortsightedly self-serving. I’ve argued against the first point here (Hugh the Black was an outsider to much of his brother’s core regions, and there’s no reason to think that men who had been operating in Ralph’s royal court would not look to the next royal court – rather than a not-so-local potentate – as his successor); but the second is also important.

Historians have long appreciated that kings and nobles were not always and inherently antagonistic such that the kings had to keep unruly and unscrupulous aristocrats down before they tore polities apart in pursuit of their own profit. This appreciation can sometimes seem to stop at around 870. But let’s look at Hugh the Great’s actions. We have a new king. He’s young, and unlike his almost-as-young East Frankish counterpart Otto the Great, he’s inexperienced. He has no West Frankish allies, and a lot of the old royal lands and palaces in the north-east are contested (thanks, Heribert of Vermandois!). But, there are these other guys to the south, in Burgundy, who were in with the last king, and who have no particular love for his brother’s attempts to impose himself on them by force…

Seen in this light, Hugh the Great’s campaign against Hugh the Black looks like a good-faith attempt to set Louis up as successor to Ralph’s power in the region of Burgundy. Certainly, not a disinterested one – Hugh the Great was made lay abbot of Saint-Germain-d’Auxerre – but this was just allowing Hugh an office which had for most of the late ninth century been attached to his particular bloc of lands and offices. (Hugh’s Neustria was actually much more formal than Ralph’s Burgundy, and maybe I should do a post about that…) But Ralph of Burgundy had not been a negligible figure, and asserting Louis as his heir in Burgundy made sense as a way of ensuring that Louis would also be a figure to reckon with.

Why did Hugh want Louis to be a figure to reckon with? Because useless kings were… erm, useless. If, as Hugh could reasonably expect, he would be the most important figure in Louis’ regime, then he needed the king to be rich and powerful, or else he couldn’t reward Hugh or judge in his favour in any meaningful way. He’d just be a useless appendage of Hugh’s own power. Moreover, in the 930s this wasn’t just hypothetical. Less than ten years before, Heribert of Vermandois had tried that sort of puppet arrangement with Louis’ imprisoned father, Charles the Simple, who – absent any particular power of his own – could add nothing to Heribert’s own resources except an alliance with the Normans, who were so suspicious of Heribert’s treatment of the king that they ended up demanding enough in the way of hostages to be rather counter-productive.

Hugh the Great, then, emerges not as a grasping aristocrat exploiting a helpless king, but as a man who, for his own benefit certainly but that makes it no less illustrative of how politics worked, tried to turn an exile king into a political force to be reckoned with.

Source Translation: Hugh of Arles and Louis IV’s succession

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Hugh and Lothar, by grace of God kings. Let the entirety of all the fideles of the holy Church of God and us, to wit, present and future, know that […] humbly asked Our Majesty that We might deign to concede to and bestow on Count Hugh, Our most beloved nephew, Our certain estate within the realm of Burgundy, and near the county of Vienne, which is named Saint-Jean-d’Octaveon, with 700 manses, and in its entirety, by Our perceptual authority.

Assenting to his petitions, and considering the love, goodwill and fidelity of this Our nephew, We commanded this Our precept to be made, through which, just as We are justly and legally able, We concede, donate, and bestow the aforesaid estate, pertaining to Our right, lying by the aforesaid county, in its entirety, to Our said nephew, by Our perceptual authority; and We transfer and consign it entirely from Our right and dominion into his right and dominion, along with churches, houses, lands, vineyards, meadows, pastures, woods, groves, plantings, waters and watercourses, mills, fisheries, mountains and valleys, peaks and plains, with male and female serfs of both sexes, with emburdened freedmen and -women (aldionibus et aldianis), with its distraints and renders, and with all the things justly and legally beholden to that estate, which is named Saint-Jean-d’Octaveon, that is, seven hundred manses entirely, that he might have, hold and firmly possess them, and have power to sell, hold, donate, exchange, alienate, make dispositions for the state of his soul, and do whatever his own lights dictate, absent contradiction from any man. And thus, if anyone might violate this Our precept, let them know themselves liable to a fine of one hundred pounds of pure gold, half to Our treasury and half to Our aforesaid nephew Count Hugh and his heirs. And that this might be more truly believed and more diligently observed by all, strengthening it with our own hands, We commanded it be marked below with Our seal.

Sign of Hugh and Lothar, most serene of kings.

Chancellor Peter witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Abbot and Archchancellor Gerland.

Given on the 8th Kalends of July [24th June], in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 937 [sic], in the 10th year of the reign of lord Hugh, most invincible of kings, and the 6th of lord Lothar, also a king., in the 9th indiction.

Enacted at Pavia, happily, amen.

So, at the moment things are a little hectic chez McNair. I’m in my last six weeks at Tübingen (alas!), and in that time I have to write up a lengthy contribution to a conference that I’m organising, do revisions to an article about land-lease practices, organise international moves (again), and, at some point, sort out my actual work. Last week, I had actually just finished part of the penultimate one of these, and was flying back to Germany, hence why there was no blog post. I’m going to try and keep on top of the blogging, but things might be a little sporadic: after all, I do this because it forces me to write something relatively chunky every week, but at the moment I’m already doing that so this might take a back seat.

But not today! After all, when all else fails, there’s charter translations. In this particular case, I mentioned in a previous week that there appears to have been an unofficial division of Provence into zones of influence after about 928. This charter neatly illustrates that.

If you remember, after the 928 death of Louis the Blind, it doesn’t look like Provence actually had a king. Based on my research, it looks like Provence was split into a northern, southern, eastern and western zone, and here we’re interested in the north-south division. In the south, it looks like Hugh of Arles was unproblematically hegemonic even if not actually king; in the north, by contrast, everyone looks to have piled in. The line of division between this is roughly around Valence.

Now, this diploma was issued in 936. As we’ve also covered before, in that year King Ralph of Burgundy died, and his place was taken over by Louis IV. Louis, along with his chief magnate Hugh the Great, immediately went forth to profit from Ralph’s death by trying to scoop up the allegiance of his allies in Burgundy, for that network was recently – and rather violently – created and after Ralph’s death was distinctly floppy. Both Louis IV and Ralph’s brother Hugh the Black attempted to assert themselves in this region by force of arms.

As you may also remember, part of Ralph’s hegemony was Vienne, and he’d pushed further south as well at points. Hugh of Arles may well have feared that this disruption would spread into the south of Provence. This diploma looks to be his response. His nephew, another Hugh, Hugh the Cisalpine (that makes four, for those keeping score), was the son of Count Warner of Sens and the brother of a Count Richard (of Troyes?), as well as a prominent figure in the court of Transjurane Burgundy, and a colleague at least of Hugh the Black for that reason. As a point-man for this region where the three kingdoms met, he was a good choice.

Moreover, I would emphasise the sheer scale of this donation. 700 manses is a vast number, roughly equivalent to a mid-level monastery such as Lobbes. It’s enough to make Hugh the Cisalpine a regional-strength military power in and of itself. Thus, Hugh of Arles’ response to Louis IV’s succession was to implant a locally-well connected close family member in the border region of his sphere of influence with enough muscle to back up any threats he might need to make. I think it’s fair to say that he was concerned…

Dead King, Floppy Duchy: Burgundy, c. 936

OK, so on Wednesday I started talking about the history of the duchy of Aquitaine after the end of Guillelmid rule. During that process, I mentioned that Burgundy after King Ralph’s death was also very interesting, but that was really a separate post. So, this is that post, being something in the way of a side note. (Plus, posting it today gives me time to do a little more research on the Ratold Ordo!)

The first thing to do when dealing with the history of Burgundy is to acknowledge the intellectual debt I owe to the 2012 PhD thesis of Steven Robbie. I’ve never met Robbie. Friends in St. Andrews tell me he’s left academia and has no plans to publish the thesis; thankfully, it’s online, and highly recommended.

So (and here I follow Robbie fairly directly), the ‘founder’ of Burgundy, Ralph’s father Richard the Justiciar, built his polity out of duct tape, spit, and bloody-handed murder. His original power-base was a small group around Dijon and Autun (where he was by no means the most powerful figure – that would be the city’s bishop, Adalgar, who was a big damn deal). By taking advantage of the civil war between King Odo and Charles the Simple from 893 to 898, Richard was able to have Adalgar of Autun murdered, capture and blind Bishop Theobald of Langres, capture by force the city of Sens and imprison its archbishop Walter, and impose his nephew Ragenard as viscount of Auxerre.

Ralph followed in his footsteps, as has already been hinted. Richard appears to have been infirm for a few years before his death, and Ralph positioning himself as his successor within Burgundy proper. His position as regional strongman was upset but not ended by becoming king, and he also expanded his authority in the south-east through force, including capturing Bourges from Duke William the Pious, trying to capture Nevers multiple times – Nevers seems to have been something of a battleground during the 920s and 930s – taking over Mâcon after the death of William the Younger (much to the chagrin of Duke Acfred), and trying to thrust his way into Vienne.

It must be said, this is not how most of the other main regional blocs of the West Frankish kingdom were put together; William the Pious’ Aquitaine appears to have come to him largely through inheritance, and Robert of Neustria’s Neustria genuinely was an administrative unit he was granted. Thus, all of Ralph and Richard’s gains were subject to challenge. In Vienne, he seems eventually to have come to some kind of deal with Count Charles Constantine. Nevers and Bourges both required an awful lot of effort to hold on to. In Auxerre, Avallon, and Autun, in the north-west of Burgundy, the power of the family of the aforementioned nephew Ragenard increased, and indeed several members of it rebelled against Ralph; and there are whispers of disgruntlement in Sens.

It’s therefore unsurprising that when he died, ‘Burgundy’ appears to have been in trouble. Ralph had no son, and although we tend to assume that his surviving brother Hugh the Black was his due successor, there’s no reason to think that people at the time shared this opinion. Hugh’s lands were in Upper Burgundy (that is, the Kingdom of Burgundy rather than the duchy) and most of his support appears to have been in Mâcon. Thus, Flodoard describes him as ‘seizing’ Langres, presumably from the bishop, and being forced out by Hugh the Great and Louis IV; and indeed the main figures in the area in the mid-tenth century appear to have been the bishops, as it was before Richard’s capture of it. Bourges appears to have been already in the sphere of influence of Hugh the Great, and certainly Hugh the Black doesn’t seem to have done anything with it.

When Louis IV and Hugh the Great invaded Burgundy in summer 936, historians, as I said, have tended to see this as the Robertian launching a coup to seize the area from its rightful heir Hugh the Black by force of arms. But this rests on the assumption that Hugh the Black was the rightful heir. Louis and Hugh appear to have stuck to the north of the duchy, but they were visited there by Bishop Rotmund of Autun, whom they could not possibly have compelled to be there. Equally, from the area came representatives of the important abbey of Vézelay, and from a little further north Bishop Ansegis of Troyes. It is possible these latter two might have been carted off by force, but not Rotmund: the best explanation for his presence is that he thought the king, or Hugh the Great, but in any case not Hugh the Black, was the legitimate power in Burgundy after Ralph’s death. The mass of more-or-less disgruntled territories that Richard and Ralph had acquired had no particular unity, and so presented an opportunity for locals and outsiders to enrich themselves when Ralph died.